It’s so close, yet in countless ways is so far away. Beyond ever-popular Bali, there’s a plethora of other experiences in this vast archipelago. Trek to discover wildlife, including tigers and orangutans, surviving deep in the jungle in Aceh and Northern Sumatra’s Gunung Leseur National Park. Underwater enthusiasts will find they can dive just about anywhere in the country, but there are pristine scuba spots in the Tongian and Komodo Islands. And while surfers flock to Uluwatu in Bali’s south, there are far more isolated waves to be had in places like East Java, with its world-class G-Land barrels, and the Mentawai Islands.
There are more than 18,000 islands to explore across what is the world’s largest archipelago, each with its own cultural twist and geographical wonder. Generally speaking, it’s a world of terraced rice paddies, cloud-fringed mountains, traditional artistry, coffee, richly decorated temples and cities packed to the rafters.
You’ll also discover traditional communities still enacting centuries-old rituals, like the ancient Pasola Festival on Sumba, where warriors on horseback wield spears in one of the bloodiest harvest festivals you’ll ever witness. It’s raw, it’s mesmerising, it’s wild, and there’s plenty more like it to be discovered throughout Indonesia.
Often thought of as the holy grail for travellers, nothing can prepare the eyes for the visual feast that is India. From the technicolour costumes of Rajasthan and Gujarat, to the larger-than-life glitz and glamour of Mumbai’s Bollywood and spirituality of Rishikesh on the Ganges, there’s an explosion of colour and culture around every corner.
Once you have caught your breath from it all, festivals abound, there are beaches on which to play, mountains to climb and colonial history at which to marvel. Its highlights are far too many to mention, but we’ll go out on a limb and say you can’t miss Chandni Chowk in Delhi, tiger spotting in Ranthambore National Park and the spectacular Amber Fort near Jaipur. And no matter how many photographs you’ve seen of it, your breath will be stolen by your first sight of the Taj Mahal.
Despite the affluence from the recent economic boom, the riches are contrasted by the slums, beggars and the high possibility that you will get Delhi belly at some point. But if you have a sense of adventure and an open mind, India is guaranteed to change your life.
Australians are avid international travellers but we often overlook our backyard. There may not as much bang for your buck as other countries, but knowing your own is priceless and taking off on a cross-country journey at least once should be compulsory!
Beyond bars and lattes in the brimming-with-culture cities, there are adventures to be had in all corners of the Great Southern Land. Other than superlatives (the world’s largest reef system, the oldest continuous culture, the largest concentration of rock art) and an obsession with oversized fruits, Australia brings to the table natural good looks and rugged travel experiences.
With a low population density outside of the cities and a high conservation bent, much of the wilderness has been left to be just that: wild. Deserts, mountains, island, coastline and outback… It’s all here in Oz for you to explore and experience in its isolated glory. Why would you want to go anywhere else?